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Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Courtney E. Alvarez

Courtney E. Alvarez

Counsel

Expertise

  • Insurance Coverage
  • Litigation
  • Insurance Recovery Group
  • Insurance Recovery

WSG Practice Industries

Activity

Profile

Courtney represents corporate policyholders in complex insurance coverage disputes relating to directors and officers liabilities, government investigations, professional errors and omissions liabilities, products liabilities, and environmental liabilities. She has successfully implemented legal strategies to obtain favorable coverage results for a range of clients, including defense contracting firms, financial services firms, automobile parts manufacturers, government-sponsored enterprises, and regulated utilities, as well as individual directors and officers.

Courtney has successfully worked on teams that have achieved favorable summary judgment decisions on dispositive issues for clients, and she has prepared mediation statements that ultimately resulted in settlement of her clients' claims. Courtney's experience includes drafting opening pleadings, written discovery, and depositions; conducting meet and confer conferences; and successfully moving to compel discovery. She has also handled all aspects of insurance coverage claims, from drafting notice letters to responding to insurer investigatory reservation of rights letters and insurer claim denials.

Bar Admissions

    New York
    District of Columbia

Education

Howard University School of Law (J.D. 2011)
Villanova University (B.A. 2008)
Areas of Practice

Insurance Coverage | Insurance Recovery | Insurance Recovery Group | Litigation

Professional Career

Significant Accomplishments

Represents a leading deposit insurance organization seeking payment of insurance proceeds in connection with dozens of lawsuits filed in more than seven states against failed banks' directors and officers for negligence, gross negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Representing a Fortune 50 design and manufacturing company seeking defense and indemnity coverage for lawsuits claiming damages arising from an allegedly defective manufacturing process.

Representing a leading manufacturing company seeking insurance coverage for environmental liabilities.

Represented the largest managed care organization in the Pacific Northwest in a lawsuit to obtain insurance coverage for class actions alleging civil RICO violations.

Speaking Engagements

Lowenstein Sandler is co-hosting a Cyber Day Seminar with The National Law Journal entitled "Strategies for Managing Cyber Risk and Maximizing Insurance Recoveries." Catherine SerafinCourtney Alvarez; SA Donald L. Cavender, Major Cyber Crime Squad CY5, FBI Washington Field Office; and Charles P. Bellingrath, National Practice Leader: Privacy, Network Security, ARC Excess & Surplus LLC will participate in the panel discussion. The presentation will provide insight from three different perspectives: an FBI expert, an experienced insurance broker, and experienced lawyers who represent policyholders.

Lowenstein Sandler is hosting its third breakfast seminar with ALM entitled "Best Practices for Insurance Placement and Claims Resolution." Andrew M. Reidy and Courtney Alvarez will be co-presenting with Dennis Love and Timothy Monahan of Lockton. Panelists will provide insight from two different perspectives. Experienced insurance brokers will discuss common placement issues and how to settle claims without litigation, while our insurance coverage lawyers will highlight frequently litigated placement issues and how to maximize your insurance recovery.

You have an insurance claim and management wants a quick but fair resolution with the insurance company. What steps should you take to best position the matter for settlement? What will get your claim resolved more promptly? Are there different strategies to consider for claims in litigation and those not in litigation?

Our program speakers will address cyber exposures and how insurance will help manage cyber risk including:

  • Understanding the latest cyber exposures that have been identified
  • The insurance products in the marketplace and how to differentiate among them
  • Navigating the application and underwriting process for cyber insurance
  • Identification of insurance policy provisions that are more beneficial
  • Where insurance fits into your plan in responding to a cyber breach or loss
  • Tips to obtain coverage promptly in the event of a loss
  • Ways to persuade insurers to pay the fair value of your claim or loss

For more information, email [email protected]

How does your business minimize its risk and liabilities in contractual relationships with vendors, contractors, and others? Your contracts may contain “additional insured” provisions that protect your business under another organization’s general liability insurance policy. You might even be engaged in such an arrangement. But do you know enough to make sure your interests are protected?

Join the lawyers from Lowenstein Sandler’s Insurance Recovery practice and a broker from Lockton Companies who work closely with these issues to gain answers to these and other questions as we explore how to identify, minimize, and avoid additional insured coverage risks.

Attend this session to learn about these and other issues:

  • The relationship between contractual indemnification provisions and insurance.
  • How to preserve coverage in the event of claims or potential claims.
  • The rights of the additional insured vis-a-vis the named insured.
  • Scope of coverage under additional insured provisions.
  • Commonly asserted coverage defenses to additional insured coverage.
  • Recent and relevant court decisions.
  • How to spot narrow policy language.

Panelists:

This webinar takes place 2-3 p.m.

NOTE: We have developed a brief survey to understand your company’s additional insured practices. We would appreciate your response and will share key findings during the webinar. Please copy and paste this link into your browser for the survey: https://lowensteinsandler.typeform.com/to/KvraGX

The loss of life and economic costs from the COVID-19 pandemic have been staggering. Over the past few weeks, the entire business landscape has changed in fundamental ways. COVID-19 has forced companies to reconfigure their operations, reevaluate their forecasts, and decrease their budgets. Insurance policies may help offset potential losses and liabilities, but misinformation is being widely disseminated regarding what is covered and what is not. Our webinar is designed to explain how to maximize insurance coverage for your losses and liabilities. 

We will address issues that are important to your business, including:

  • Where to look for insurance coverage for COVID-19-related losses and liabilities
  • The scope of coverage for business interruption losses and extra expenses caused by COVID-19
  • Strategies for handling the renewal process when restrictive terms may be demanded by the insurer
  • Best practices for maximizing insurance coverage and resolving claims disputes with insurers

Panelists

Andrew Reidy, Partner, Lowenstein Sandler
Joesph M. Saka, Senior Counsel, Lowenstein Sandler
Courtney E. Alvarez, Counsel, Lowenstein Sandler

TimingWednesday, May 6, 2020 - 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. EDT

If you are interesting in registering for this event, please contact: [email protected]

To see our other material related to the pandemic, please visit the Coronavirus/COVID-19: Facts, Insights & Resources page of our website by clicking here.



Professional Associations


  • American Bar Association

  • New York State Bar Association
Articles

Maximizing Insurance Coverage for Cyber Losses: Two New Decisions Highlight Potential Recovery Sources
Lowenstein Sandler LLP, July 2018

Businesses prudently and increasingly purchase stand-alone cyber insurance policies to manage the risk of cyber breaches and attacks. Two decisions from separate U.S. Courts of Appeals in the past two weeks highlight the fact that in-house counsel and risk managers should look to their organizations’ traditional insurance policies as a source of potential coverage for cyber-related losses. Spec’s Fam. Partners, Ltd. v. Hanover Ins. Co...

Additional Articles

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis, landlords and tenants alike found themselves in a most precarious position: state and municipal governments across the country restricted access to offices and industrial and retail spaces via mandatory stay-at-home orders. All the while, except in the rarest of circumstances, tenants were still technically obligated by the terms of their leases to pay rent, and landlords’ payment obligations to lenders, taxing authorities, and other third parties continued unabated despite the mandatory closure of most businesses and workplaces. However, perhaps unsurprisingly in light of the unprecedented nature of the government’s closure orders, in some U.S. cities, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of commercial tenants failed or refused to pay their rent for the month of May. The owners of commercial real estate cannot pay their mortgages, taxes, insurance premiums, and maintenance and other ongoing costs unless they receive rent from their tenants, so many landlords are today finding themselves cash-strapped and at the mercy of their creditors. As landlords try to find a way to survive in a climate of mounting rent defaults and pending foreclosures, negotiating rent abatements or deferrals with their tenants and forbearance with their lenders does little to stop their bleeding. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in New York, along with many similar moratoriums issued across the country’s large cities, have served to freeze nonpayment and eviction cases from being adjudicated in the courts until late summer, further tying the hands of landlords and likely eventually resulting in a deluge of dispossession judgments against tenants and an overloading of our country’s landlord-tenant courts.


The retail and hospitality sectors have suffered the largest losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, governments ordered malls and shopping centers closed across the U.S. and more than 47,000 retailers across the U.S. temporarily shut their doors or significantly adjusted store hours. In April, rent collection ranged from a mere 15 percent to 30 percent for retail landlords with higher concentrations of shuttered businesses, according to an estimate from brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap. It is estimated that the U.S. retailer default rate on corporate debt will surge from 4.7 percent in March 2020 to about 14.4 percent in March 2021, according to Moody’s. By the same token, with business and leisure travel at virtually zero, hotels are forecast to suffer the most, with the average occupancy rate across all U.S. hotel sectors plummeting to 40.1 percent in 2020 from 66.1 percent in 2019.


In today’s climate, tenants are just as desperate to try to get out of paying rent as their landlords are to try to get them to pay rent. For tenants seeking the quick fix of rent relief, the language within the four corners of virtually all leases is unfortunately unlikely to offer any solace since the overwhelming majority of leases fail to offer tenants payment protection via force majeure provisions and fail to condition the payment of rent on the building being open for business. In addition, outside the four corners of the lease contract, while common-law arguments favoring granting some modicum of rent relief on equitable grounds such as constructive eviction, unconscionability, or frustration of purpose have become vogue, they have not yet been tested in the courts. In response to this impasse, landlords and tenants have filed lawsuits asserting and assailing these and other theories. The NBA, Ross Stores, and the Gap are three of many well-known companies bearing the brunt of litigation trying to break the COVID-19-induced rent logjam. Decisions in these cases are likely to vary based on jurisdiction, individual lease provisions, and numerous other factors, and are unlikely to provide the broad salve that the commercial real estate industry as a whole needs in order to stabilize itself.


In view of these issues, landlords and tenants have turned to existing insurance products as a potential source of recovery. To date, the efforts to recover losses have focused on seeking recovery under property insurance policies, including pursuing claims for business interruption. Business interruption coverage includes coverage for gross earnings, gross profits, extra expense, and, often, rental income. The policies typically require physical loss or damage to trigger coverage. Even though there is precedent to support the view that COVID-19 satisfies the physical loss or damage requirement, insurers have insisted that COVID-19 does not cause physical loss or damage. 


Some insureds are seeking recoveries under specific additional coverages in their property policies. For example, civil or military authority coverage is triggered when an order of civil or military authority prohibits access to an insured location, provided that the order is a direct result of physical loss or damage at the insured location or within a specified distance of the insured location. Communicable disease coverage, under certain circumstances, covers losses relating to the actual presence of a communicable disease. These and other coverages often have substantially lower sublimits that make the coverage far less valuable than the primary coverages.


The insurance industry has staunchly opposed legislative and executive attempts to regulate the insurance response to the pandemic under currently existing policy forms. In response to legislation proposed in the District of Columbia to help businesses secure business interruption coverage, the insurance industry has argued that paying COVID-19-based business interruption claims could bankrupt the insurance industry. The CEO of Chubb threatened a constitutional challenge to any legislative or executive action.


The path to recover under existing policy forms will likely include litigation and delay. To date, more than 300 lawsuits have been filed against insurers relating to coverage for COVID-19 losses. In light of differing facts underlying the claims and the likelihood that state law may vary on the critical insurance issues, the scope of coverage will remain unsettled for some time. Prospectively, insurers will likely act to add exclusions to eliminate or narrow coverage for any COVID-19 exposure and exposure for any other pandemics or governmental shutdowns.


The commercial real estate industry clearly needs a shot in the arm to vaccinate itself against a problem like this ever occurring and stifling the industry again. The delay and lack of clarity associated with obtaining coverage under current forms require a new model. To be equitable to all stakeholders, any solution should balance the risk between landlords and tenants. It would therefore seem that the development of a new real estate-specific insurance product would be just what the industry needs in order to get healthy and avoid a pandemic or a governmental shutdown from ever again wreaking havoc like this on the industry. To that end, in order to protect landlords across the country who are acting in good faith to keep their buildings accessible, clean, and safe during a pandemic, and tenants who are simply complying with government orders to remain home and keep their businesses shut for the benefit of public health, Congress should take action to create and support with federal funding a widely and readily available rental stream protection insurance product with a large national pool of participants that will defray costs to the average policyholder and protect both landlords and tenants in the wake of government-ordered shutdowns due to a public health or other crisis which restrict the ability of tenants to use commercial real estate for its intended purposes. Fortunately, Congress already has models for a program to respond to the needs of landlords and tenants in the midst of a catastrophic event without protracted, state-by-state litigation to establish the extent of insurance coverage.


In 1968, Congress responded to the escalating cost of property damage caused by floods by creating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). FEMA collaborates with private insurance companies to provide affordable insurance to landlords and tenants alike in the event of a catastrophic event. The primary benefit of this insurance product is that it is backed by the federal government. Private insurance companies administer claims, and the federal pays flood claims even in the absence of a disaster declaration by the U.S. President.


Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, landlords and tenants looked to property insurance and their business interruption coverage grants to provide coverage for loss. Due to the catastrophic costs of the attack, insurers began to eliminate coverage for loss caused by terrorist attacks or offer coverage at prohibitively expensive rates. In the wake of this disaster, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). Although the program was designed to be temporary, Congress has reauthorized or extended the program at least four times since its inception. The TRIA makes terrorism insurance available and more affordable by guaranteeing federal funding for insured losses following an act of terrorism. The TRIA is designed to minimize and spread loss over a period of time by requiring insurers to cover the entire amount of small losses and part of medium-size losses, with the government paying more as the size of the loss grows. The TRIA includes provisions allowing the government to recoup its payments toward smaller losses over time through a levy on insurance policies.


Similar to the NFIP and the TRIA, rental income stream protection for loss caused by a pandemic should be designed to spread loss over time and across the industry in the following ways:



  1. Any product needs to be developed with participation of both insurers and policyholders.

  2. Premiums should not be so high that insurance is not affordable, but need to be high enough that the product remains financially viable.

  3. While the insurance should be available to all landlords, landlords should not bear the full brunt of the costs. Landlords should be permitted to offset a portion of the cost of the premiums to tenants via operating expense payments under net leases and slightly higher base rental value under gross leases.

  4. Congress should consider a program that requires private insurers to bear all of the costs of smaller losses.

  5. The program should include a mechanism for the government to recoup costs for (at least some of) its payments over a period time.


A widely available insurance product to protect landlords and tenants adversely impacted by government orders in public health or other crises would ultimately cost the federal government less than the current practice of using multitrillion-dollar stimulus programs.  Some members of Congress already have begun to take action to minimize the cost caused by this pandemic and future health crises. New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has introduced the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act that she modeled after the TRIA.  Congressional action now will ensure that the economic fallout to the commercial real estate industry caused by the current pandemic is not repeated in the face of future stay-at-home orders and similar government directives.


Reprinted with permission from the June 22, 2020, issue of National Real Estate Investor. © 2020 Informa USA, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.


To see our other material related to the pandemic, please visit the Coronavirus/COVID-19: Facts, Insights & Resources page of our website by clicking here. 


WSG's members are independent firms and are not affiliated in the joint practice of professional services. Each member exercises its own individual judgments on all client matters.

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